There have been countless hauntings recorded all over the world, and many of these have managed to become rather notorious, sometimes even well-known to those who don’t know anything at all about the paranormal, such is their raw, almost visceral power to compel and frighten. There are certain beats and elements that seem to make such cases stand out, some unquantifiable property to them that make them stick like a shard into the mind, managing to be alluring and yet repellent at the same time. One such haunting allegedly occurred in the 1980s and has a lot of these elements, which have propelled it into the ranks of famous cases, and it has gone on to become one of the most intense, and indeed controversial hauntings there is.
In 1986 the family of Carmen and Al Snedeker had fallen on pretty rough times. Their son had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, requiring extensive treatment at a hospital that drained the already struggling family financially. Making it worse was that they lived fairly far from the only hospital in the region capable of providing the best care for their ailing son, and so they decided to rent out a house in Southington, Connecticut in order to be closer and make the constant commuting more bearable. At first the house was a great deal, with reasonable rent and enough space for the Snedeker’s, their three children, and their niece, the perfect location, and it all seemed to be too good to be true. It would turn out that perhaps it was.
Things got quite odd pretty much right away, when they were cleaning out the dusty old basement and came across an array of morbid tools typically used by morticians down there in the gloom, including embalming tables with blood drains, a gurney, and various wicked looking instruments for cutting open dead bodies, as well as toe tags and personal belongings of the deceased, all just scattered about abandoned and gathering a frosting of dust. The curious couple looked into the history of the house and were rather unsettled to find that it had once served as a funeral home called the Hallahan Funeral Home for decades. Despite this creepy history, the basement was used as the bedroom for their two sons, and after cleaning it up the two boys moved in. Strangeness was not far behind.
The eldest son Philip, the one who was sick, immediately from the first night complained of hearing strange voices and fluttering sounds in the dark, and of seeing shadow figures and a man in a black and white pin-striped suit and with a shock of white hair lurking in the dark staring at him as he tried unsuccessfully to sleep. These paranormal disturbances got so bad that the boy begged to be allowed to stay in the hospital, as he was frightened of these entities and unable to sleep. He also began to display malicious behavior, playing cruel jokes on his brothers and throwing tantrums for no reason, all while continuing to see the demonic forms that were tormenting him and apparently crawling into his head. The Snedekers believed that this was perhaps just due to stress from the various treatments he had been undergoing for his condition, and he was moved back to the hospital for the time being. Interestingly, doctors would inform the family that none of the medication he was on should cause hallucinations, and this was when they would learn that this was all far from a young boy’s addled imagination.
With the boy gone, whatever insidious forces were in that house apparently turned their attention on the entire family. It started with a smell of what seemed to be rotting meat that would spring up out of nowhere, nauseating in its intensity but with no discernible origin, after which it would just dissipate. The activity quickly escalated, with dishes reported to be put away by unseen hands, objects going missing only to reappear in strange places, lights turning on and off on their own, apparently even when the bulbs were taken out. Religious objects were a particular target for these entities, with crucifixes found bent out of shape, turned upside down, or thrown to the floor.
There were other odd, unsettling incidents as well. One day Carmen was mopping the floor in the kitchen and claims that the water in the bucket suddenly turned a deep, blood red color, emanating a fetid stench. Things would get steadily more terrifying when they would start seeing fleeting shadowy shapes within the home which seemed to get bolder until they began actually seeing the entity in the pin-striped suit that Philip had spoken of. Carmen also claimed to have seen a separate apparition with long black hair and black eyes, and she would say of these entities:
They were incredibly powerful. One was very thin, with high cheekbones, long black hair and pitch black eyes and another had white hair and eyes, wore a pinstriped tuxedo, and his feet were constantly in motion, this was seen by my son and I.
These spirits, demons, whatever they were, seemed to be extremely malevolent and malicious. Members of the family began to be pushed, prodded, and tapped by unseen hands, and this graduated to punching, slapping, and full assault when their niece was allegedly attacked by an invisible entity one evening that left behind scratch marks on her body and tore off the rosary she wore. Al Snedeker was also supposedly repeatedly attacked by the entities, and on another occasion Carmen and her niece were purportedly surrounded by an ominous mist that caused disorientation and paralysis while they were in the kitchen. In another frightening incident, Carmen claimed that as she was taking a shower the curtain began to wrap around her face to the point that she could barely breathe, only releasing her when her niece came to help, roused by her frantic screams.
While all of this was going on their middle son, Matt, began experiencing strange personality shifts and violent behavior similar to what Philip had experienced, as well as writing extremely dark and disturbing poetry featuring visions of murder and necrophilia. He began to brood in the corner, throw tantrums, and even supposedly attacked his cousin Tammy on one occasion in an attempt to rape her. This was enough for the family to have him moved temporarily to a mental institution for observation, and was all a little too much for them to cope with. That was when they would contact the world-famous paranormal researchers and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Warrens would arrive at the besieged home along with seasoned investigator John Zaffis and the rest of their team, where they would stay for the next 9 weeks. They would be utterly shocked at just how intense the activity was, supposedly witnessing many of the phenomena for themselves, as well as the demonic attacks on the family. Zaffis would give a detailed account of one terrifying incident he experienced, saying:
One night, I was sitting at the dining room table, reviewing some notes that I’d made. Suddenly, the room grew bitterly cold and I could sense a presence around me. I called out to the others, who were sleeping in the living room, but I couldn’t get anyone to wake up. I looked up the stairs and saw an apparition starting to form. The air was filled with a disgusting odor, so foul that I could hardly breathe. As the apparition took shape, I could hear a noise that sounded like thousands of flapping wings coming from behind it. I’d never been more terrified in my life. The form slowly descended the stairs it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, it came to the last step and it turned towards me and said “Do you know what they did to us, do you know?” All I wanted to do was get my car keys and get the hell out of that house. I left the building and did not return for three days.
After experiencing many other phenomena, Zaffis would lament, “Compared to that house, the other cases I had been involved with were like dealing with Casper the Friendly Ghost.” The Warrens went on to claim that after looking into the history of the house and its past as a funeral home and mortuary, they were convinced that the morticians had been engaging in grim acts of necrophilia upon the corpses, even claiming to have found arrest records to this effect. This, they claimed, was the root of the problem, and that it had drawn in demonic forces. Indeed, according to the Warrens the house was absolutely infested with demons, and they went about bringing in Catholic priests to perform an exorcism on the property. This exorcism would apparently last for over 3 hours and be plagued by all manner of violent paranormal activity, including dishes thrown about the room, banging on the walls, and intense waves of nauseous odors, which would allegedly frighten two of the priests off, before finally the house was deemed clear. The Snedekers would live in the house for another two years before finally moving out.
The spectacular and harrowing story was heavily featured in the media at the time, and in later years would be the subject of a book, a documentary, and made into the hit horror film The Haunting in Connecticut, loosely based on the supposedly real events. However, like many of the cases the Warrens have covered there has been a lot of skepticism aimed at the Snedeker family haunting. One major problem is the sheer amount of inconsistencies in the testimonies of both Carmen Snedeker and the Warrens. Details have changed on a regular basis, and it is sometimes hard to pin down exactly what happened and what the timeline for these events truly is, making it all rather shaky. There is also the fact that no one who had ever lived at the “haunted” residence before the Snedekers had ever experienced anything particularly odd there, nor has anyone who has lived there since. Indeed, neighbors at the time of the supposed terrifying events have claimed that nothing unusual was going on that they could tell. Adding to this is the detail that, according to the local Catholic diocese, there no record of an official exorcism having ever been carried out at the house.
Adding fuel to the skeptical claims that the story was either partially or completely fabricated is the testimony of horror author Ray Garton, who was tasked with writing a book outlining the “true” events titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. During the project, Garton, who went into it wanting to write a genuine non-fiction work on a real haunting, worked closely with the Snedekers and the Warrens, and he claims he found that they had trouble keeping their stories and versions of events straight, with numerous contradictions and inconsistencies. He also says that the Warrens urged him to play fast and loose with the events, and in a rather damning interview he has said of the whole frustrating experience:
It’s hard writing a non-fiction book when all the people involved are telling you different stories. I found that the accounts of the individual Snedekers didn’t quite mesh. They couldn’t keep their stories straight. I went to Ed with this problem. ‘Oh, they’re crazy,’ he said…. ‘ All the people who come to us are crazy. You think *sane* people would come to us? You’ve got some of the story — just use what works and make the rest up. Just make it up and make it scary.’ So I used what I could, made up the rest, and tried to make it as scary as I could.
Despite all of this, the Snedekers have always stood by their story and insisted that none of it is fiction, as have the Warrens and John Zaffis, leaving us to wonder just how much of it is true, if anything. In the meantime, the house where it all allegedly went down has become a bit of a macabre tourist attraction, much to the annoyance of the current owners. Whether any of it is true or not, the case of the Snedeker family haunting is a spectacular tale that makes for a great spooky yarn, and it has obviously managed to maintain interst and capture the imagination even as it is intensely debated. Whether you believe any of it or not, there is no doubt that it has managed to retain its place among some of the most terrifying supposed hauntings on record.